Posts in Category: Videopoems

Snowmen by Agha Shahid Ali

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Poem by Agha Shahid Ali (reading by Carl Hancock Rux) — text here

Animation by Kyle Jenkins for the Poetry Foundations’ Poetry Everywhere series

A posthumous volume of Ali’s collected poems, The Veiled Suite, has just been released. He was a master who died much too young. As for the video, I’m not sure it adds anything to the poem or not.

Yo no sé cómo saltar (I Don’t Know How to Leap) by Juan Ramón Jiménez

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Poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (Estío, 11)

Reading and video by sonolopez (Javier López Clemente)

Here’s the poem, which I think should be in the public domain by now, together with my translation (feel free to offer corrections in the comments).

Yo no sé cómo saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

El río se lleva, mientras,
la realidad de esta tarde
a mares sin esperanza.

Miro al oriente, al poniente,
miro al sur y miro al norte…
Toda la verdad dorada
que cercaba al alma mía,
cual con un cielo completo,
se cae, partida y falsa.

…Y no sé como saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

Meanwhile the current bears
this afternoon’s reality
into despairing seas.

Look to the east, the west,
look to the south and to the north…
all that golden truth
that encircled my soul,
complete with its own sky,
collapses, false and broken.

…And I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

I imagine Jiménez is rolling at his grave at the video’s use of the soundtrack from The Matrix — he was pretty uptight, I hear — but it works for me.

Daddy by Sylvia Plath

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Poem and reading by Sylvia Plath — text here

Video by mishima1970

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Another video with the same poem, this time by Jim Clark, who makes

Virtual Animated movies of great poets reincarnated through the wonders of computer animation reading their best loved poems and presented in the style of old scratchy movies.

My Entrepreneurial Spirit by Aaron Fagan

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Poem by Aaron Fagan, video by Jeffrey Texas Schell

In an article in the March/April 2009 issue of Poets & Writers — published coincidental to the launching of this website (chalk it up to zeitgeist) — Alex Dimitrov writes,

The sharing of video poems began sometime in 2005, when artists discovered YouTube as a tool through which they could easily distribute their work and reach a broad audience. Aaron Fagan, author of the poetry collection Garage (Salt Publishing, 2007), describes seeing an early video poem that “began with a line about standing in the kitchen slicing an orange, and sure enough the video showed someone standing in a kitchen slicing an orange. The literality seemed to be the pitfall this potential genre was falling into right out of the gate.”

Collaborating with his friends, visual artists Jeffrey Schell and K. Erik Ino, Fagan made several videos for poems from Garage and tried to avoid such a literal approach. One of these videos, “My Entrepreneurial Spirit,” features a collage of images, ranging from footage taken in a moving car to a woman walking on a rooftop, that cannot be explicitly traced back to the narrative of the poem but nonetheless add a rich texture of meaning. For Fagan, working with video is “yet another among many Hail Mary shots to get poetry some attention or readership,” he says.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

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Poem by Langston Hughes (read by Allen Dwight Callahan) — text here

Video by Four Seasons Productions

Most of Four Seasons’ videoems strike me as too literal and cliched in their interpretations. This is one of the few I kind of liked.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

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Poem and reading by T. S. Eliot (text here)

Animation by Everett Wilson, who writes:

I produced the visuals for this poem by T.S. Eliot in the fall of 2001, during my brief time in the Media program at the University of Lethbridge. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, an Animated Rendition of T.S. Eliot’s Poem” appeared in the “highlights reel” of the Melbourne International Student Animation Festival, which traveled to select universities across Australia. After receiving feedback on YouTube, I replaced the original narration with T.S. Eliot’s voice in this 2007 revision.

There are other Prufrock videos on YouTube, but this is by far the best of those I’ve seen.

Some Days by Billy Collins

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Poem and reading by Billy Collins — text here

Animation by Julian Grey of Head Gear Animation, produced by JWT-NY

I have to say these Billy Collins videos from JWT-NY (there are nine total; I’ll post them all eventually) are really an improvement over the straight texts. This is just a matter of personal taste, of course, but Collins’ poems tend to bore me after the first reading. The video adaptations, by contrast, invite repeated viewings. I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere…